"Views of Life." by Anne Brontë (1820-1849)
First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 129-136.
WHEN sinks my heart in hopeless gloom,
And life can show no joy for me;
And I behold a yawning tomb,
Where bowers and palaces should be;
In vain you talk of morbid dreams;
In vain you gaily smiling say,
That what to me so dreary seems,
The healthy mind deems bright and gay.
[Page 130]I too have smiled, and thought like you,
I lately saw a sunset sky,
And stood enraptured to behold
Its varied hues of glorious dye:
First, fleecy clouds of shining gold;
These blushing took a rosy hue;
Beneath them shone a flood of green;
Nor less divine, the glorious blue
That smiled above them and between.
I cannot name each lovely shade;
I cannot say how bright they shone;
But one by one, I saw them fade;
And what remained whey they were gone?
Dull clouds remained, of sombre hue,
And when their borrowed charm was o'er,
The azure sky had faded too,
That smiled so softly bright before.
So, gilded by the glow of youth,
Our varied life looks fair and gay;
And so remains the naked truth,
When that false light is past away.
[Page 131]Why blame ye, then, my keener sight,
When the young mother smiles above
The first-born darling of her heart,
Her bosom glows with earnest love,
While tears of silent transport start.
Fond dreamer! little does she know
The anxious toil, the suffering,
The blasted hopes, the burning woe,
The object of her joy will bring.
Her blinded eyes behold not now
What, soon or late, must be his doom;
The anguish that will cloud his brow,
The bed of death, the dreary tomb.
As little know the youthful pair,
In mutual love supremely blest,
What weariness, and cold despair,
Ere long, will seize the aching breast.
And, even, should Love and Faith remain,
(The greatest blessings life can show,)
Amid adversity and pain,
To shine, throughout with cheering glow;
[Page 132]They do not see how cruel Death
The soul's and body's agony,
Ere she may sink to her repose.
The sad survivor cannot see
The grave above his darling close;
Nor how, despairing and alone,
He then must wear his life away;
And linger, feebly toiling on,
And fainting, sink into decay.
Oh, Youth may listen patiently,
While sad Experience tells her tale;
But Doubt sits smiling in his eye,
For ardent Hope will still prevail!
He hears how feeble Pleasure dies,
By guilt destroyed, and pain and woe;
He turns to Hope–and she replies,
"Believe it not–it is not so!"
"Oh, heed her not!" Experience says,
"For thus she whispered once to me;
[Page 133]She told me, in my youthful days,
When, in the time of early Spring,
Too chill the winds that o'er me pass'd,
She said, each coming day would bring
A fairer heaven, a gentler blast.
And when the sun too seldom beamed,
The sky, o'ercast, too darkly frowned,
The soaking rain too constant streamed,
And mists too dreary gathered round;
She told me, Summer's glorious ray
Would chase those vapours all away,
And scatter glories round;
With sweetest music fill the trees,
Load with rich scent the gentle breeze,
And strew with flowers the ground.
But when, beneath that scorching ray,
I languished, weary, through the day,
While birds refused to sing,
Verdure decayed from field and tree,
And panting Nature mourned with me
The freshness of the Spring.
'Wait but a little while,' she said,
'Till Summer's burning days are fled;
And Autumn shall restore,
[Page 134]With golden riches of her own,
And long I waited, but in vain:
That freshness never came again,
Though Summer passed away,
Though Autumn's mists hung cold and chill,
And drooping nature languished still,
And sank into decay.
Till wintry blasts foreboding blew
Through leafless trees–and then I knew
That Hope was all a dream.
But thus, fond youth, she cheated me;
And she will prove as false to thee,
Though sweet her words may seem."
Stern prophet! Cease thy bodings dire–
Thou canst not quench the ardent fire
That warms the breast of youth.
Oh, let it cheer him while it may,
And gently, gently die away–
Chilled by the damps of truth!
Tell him, that earth is not our rest;
Its joys are empty–frail at best;
And point beyond the sky.
[Page 135]But gleams of light may reach us here;
Though hope may promise joys, that still
Unkindly time will ne'er fulfil;
Or, if they come at all,
We never find them unalloyed,–
Hurtful perchance, or soon destroyed,
They vanish or they pall;
Yet hope itself a brightness throws
O'er all our labours and our woes;
While dark foreboding Care
A thousand ills will oft portend,
That Providence may ne'er intend
The trembling heart to bear.
Or if they come, it oft appears,
Our woes are lighter than our fears,
And far more bravely borne.
Then let us not enhance our doom;
But e'en in midnight's blackest gloom
Expect the rising morn.
Because the road is rough and long,
Shall we despise the skylark's song,
That cheers the wanderer's way?
[Page 136]Or trample down, with reckless feet,
Pass pleasant scenes unnoticed by,
Because the next is bleak and drear;
Or not enjoy a smiling sky,
Because a tempest may be near?
No! while we journey on our way,
We'll smile on every lovely thing;
And ever, as they pass away,
To memory and hope we'll cling.
And though that awful river flows
Before us, when the journey's past,
Perchance of all the pilgrim's woes
Most dreadful–shrink not–'tis the last!
Though icy cold, and dark, and deep;
Beyond it smiles that blessed shore,
Where none shall suffer, none shall weep,
And bliss shall reign for evermore!
In manuscript form, this poem is untitled, and does not include lines 33-36. The first few stanzas were written in early 1844, and the latter part around June 1845. The manuscript shows considerable editing over time, suggesting continuing emotional involvement with the ideas expressed. Similar ideas, of the importance of hope, and the contrast between the views of youth and experience, appear elsewhere in Anne's poetry and prose.